A: That is an excellent question, and one that is frequently asked. Believe it or not, it is best to not drag it out for days or weeks. Every time we eat something containing sugar or other fermentable carbohydrates, our teeth are exposed to 20 minutes of “acid attack”. The acid is created by germs in our mouths which convert the sugars into harmful, cavity-causing acid. Even worse, when we eat very sticky foods, such as toffee or the ever-popular Hallowe’en kisses, the acid attack lasts for 20 minutes after every trace of the offending sugar clears from the mouth.
Also, there is now evidence to suggest that we should not brush our teeth immediately after eating sugary or acidic foods, as the acid attack softens our enamel. By brushing immediately, we stand to brush away minute amounts of the enamel each time. Common sense must prevail, so when we do decide to eat a sweet treat, it is best to dilute the sugar as quickly as possible, by drinking lots of water, as well as trying not to eat those treats between meals. During and immediately after meals, there is an increased flow of saliva which will naturally help dilute acids contained in foods, as well as those created by the germs in our mouths.
Back to the question now, it is better to limit the snacking to longer, less frequent periods than to have small, frequent treats, since this will limit the number of those 20 minutes of acid attacks our teeth are exposed to. So, enjoy those treats during or immediately after meals, rinse well with water, then brush about 30 minutes later.
Stop by my office for a complimentary reflector to keep your little ghosts and goblins safe while they are trick-or-treating! Happy Hallowe’en from Dr. Karen Lederer and her team!